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The Myths of Low-Flow Fixture Savings and What to Do About It

Some of life’s greatest pleasures are the simplest.

The invigorating feeling of stepping outside on the first day of your favorite season; the comforting taste of your favorite dish, cooked to perfection; and the enjoyment of catching up with old friends over a cup of (fill in the blank).

Though individual preferences may differ, we can almost always agree on the generalities.

One of which is a hot shower. Put simply, there is almost nothing more enjoyable than taking a luxurious shower after a long day. Regardless of gender, nationality or political preference, we ALL want the same basic things from our showers: clean water, adequate pressure, and the perfect temperature.

Unfortunately, what is both a pleasurable and essential activity has come under close scrutiny in recent years. With major droughts devastating both Texas and California in recent years, environmental advocates are increasingly calling for greater water conservation measures in the shower.

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Changes In Flow Regulation

Showering is one of the leading ways we use water in the home, accounting for nearly 17 percent of residential indoor use, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Because of this government organizations nationwide are beginning to call for stricter shower head regulations.

 The California Energy Commission passed legislation in 2015 that reduced legal shower head limit from 2.5 to 2.0 gallons per minute, effective July 2016 (NYC adopted the standard back in 2010). In July 2018, that mandated flow rate dropped again to 1.8 gallons per minute, making California the state with the toughest water flow standards in the nation. And as of 2019, landlords of multi-family residences with old water fixtures were no longer protected by grandfather provisions. Their only option has been to update their fixtures to remain compliant.

More shower heads meeting the 2.0-gallon standard are available on the mainstream market these days. However, these water-saving devices are up against the bad reputation they’ve received in the past. For the rest of this article, we’ll dispel some of the most common myths associated with low-flow fixtures and what to look for when buying yours.

Myth 1: Low-Flow Shower Heads Don’t Have Enough Pressure

We’ve heard this one a lot. Many of the first regulators on the market weren’t designed to deliver widespread coverage, however, that is no longer the case.

First, a primer on how shower heads are measured: Flow is affected by water pressure, which is measured in pounds per square inch (psi). The greater the pressure pushing water through the shower head, the greater the volume of water forced out. Some buildings have great water pressure; some do not. It’s the job of the shower head to regulate it.

Years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to find shower heads delivering 5 to 8 gallons per minute. Today’s standard for low-flow heads is set at 2.5 gallons per minute, but many showers still flow at 4 gallons per minute. All that to say, most people aren’t craving the actual pressure of 4 gallons per minute itself as much as the feeling of pressure through the widespread dispersion of water.

Myth 2: Low-Flow Products Are An Environmental Ponzi Scheme

While there are some eco-friendly suggestions that make us roll our eyes, low-flow shower heads aren’t one of them. According to the Orange Water and Sewer Authority, using a 1.5 gallons per minute low-flow regulator can actually save a family of four 10,521  gallons of water per year, or nearly 877 gallons per month.

Faucet and toilet regulators also work great! As previously mentioned, unbiased governmental organizations are backing the shift toward more environmentally friendly products. With that said, don’t assume you’re getting something that works just because it has a label.

Myth 3: A Label Means It’s Green

Beware of greenwashing! Just because it has a pretty, eco-friendly label doesn’t mean it meets government standards. Several companies have caught on to the popularity of green products, and they’re “cashing in” by marketing regular products with minimal updates as green.

This can be seen in nearly every industry from household cleaning products to home appliances. Overgeneralized terminology, non-rigorous label standards, and fancy packaging all play a role. Look for the WaterSense label on all shower heads before purchasing. This will guarantee you’re getting the real deal.

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Myth 4: A Lower Flow Rate is ALWAYS Better

Have you ever tried to take a shower with more of a trickle than a stream? Kind of feels like a chore doesn’t it? Though it may seem obvious, a lower flow rate isn’t always better. You can still get conservation benefits while remaining efficient.

Health, safety, and sanitation should never be compromised in the interest of "saving the environment.” While the terms conservation and efficiency are often used interchangeably, they’re actually quite different: Conservation refers to the act of saving resources, and efficiency refers to the act of reducing usage while still getting what you need. The good news?

You don’t need to compromise on anything to keep enjoying that hot shower you love while still conserving water usage. And with The Water Scrooge, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort, either.

The Argument Against Low-Flow Fixtures

Check the packaging of every low-flow fixture on the market and they all say they save water. And, technically they do. But through our experience in talking to property managers all over New York is that, buying low-flow fixtures for all of their units was a huge expense, and the savings never happened!

How can that be?

Installing low-flow fixtures only works if they are allowed to do what they were designed to do. In many cases, tenants end up replacing the fixture, or tampering with it trying to get their water flow to its previous level.

Taking a tenant from 4 gallons per minute in their shower down to 1.8 gallons per minute will be noticeable for the tenant. However the truth is they shouldn't have been above 2.5 gallons per minute in the first place. The difference between 2.5 gallons per minute and 1.8 gallons per minute is less noticeable.

So there are many landlords who have excitedly invested in and installed low-flow fixtures in their units expecting their operating expenses to go down. But, as they track their water savings, it's either non-existent, or it goes away within a couple months.

In the end, they just wasted a lot of money on low-flow fixtures and got nothing in return. Also, many times tenants tamper with the low-flow shower heads restoring the 4-5 gallons per minute that old shower heads use. This makes water and electricity bills skyrocket for the entire property. So, not only do landlords spend thousands of dollars on new equipment that ends up being inefficient, they end up increasing their water bill, as well.

The Water Scrooge Difference

The Water Scrooge™ is a system designed to regulate flow rates so water isn't wasted. Our system goes behind the shower wall and out of sight and reach of the tenant. Not only that, but the tools required to adjust or remove the technology are something only a professional plumber would have access to. Combined with our spa-style shower head, most tenants usually don't even notice the difference when taking a shower.

The Water Scrooge is the only truly tamper-proof water regulation system on the market today. Here's how it works:

 

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david-schwartz

Author

is the founder and president of The Water Scrooge, which offers maintenance-free, tamper-proof water conservation tools to landlords and homeowners. The Water Scrooge is based in Lynbrook, N.Y.